Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Oh, were we distraught when our Cavalier/Cocker mix named "Lord Byron" developed a weird malady about 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8. He knew something was wrong too, and desperately looked at me for help. He was stumbling, jerking, off-balance, and disoriented. I did not know what to do. Sadly, the Big Island has no 24-hour animal hospital, so we had to wait until the next morning to take him to the vet.
What had happened was the first of several strokes that later proved so severe, we had to euthanize Byron, but this took three days of hell for him and helplessness for us. By Wednesday afternoon, when we put Byron to sleep, Bill and I were grateful that our vet Dr. Jacob Head at Keauhou Veterinary Hospital had given the dog a good dose of Valium.
Byron had suffered enough, and I was glad he likely felt a sense of relief before we had to say goodbye. We stood by his side, patted and scratched him, and told him he was a good boy. I doubt he was conscious enough to hear us, but hopefully he felt our comfort and care.
Let’s not dwell on the sad parts
What I choose to remember about Byron is his undying devotion. He would hold his head close to your chest to hug you. He would pat your hand with his paw to let you know he could use a bit more belly rub. He followed your every move, whether to the bathroom or kitchen, and he especially loved the cocktail hour on our lanai—in fact, about 5:30 p.m. everyday, he would saunter to the sliding door, leading the way to cocktails.
His internal clock was so accurate, every evening at 11:00 p.m., Byron would rise from his post in the media room and head to his bed in the breakfast room. I would tell him, “See you in the morning light.” He’d be snoring before I had time to put up the gates that kept him and his sister Meryl from scratching our bedroom door. Because of allergies, I draw the line at sleeping with dogs, but Byron and Meryl had their own fluffy beds. Byron especially loved when his bed was freshly laundered, and he would lie down with a look of joy on his face.
As he grew older, he became a bit more compulsive about his schedule. Dinnertime was 6:00 p.m., or else we were pestered by his glares and frustrated panting. Soon after dinner, Byron urgently demanded his treats of Brushing Chews while Bill and I watched the news in the media room. The dog was such an impatient timekeeper, he would give us a loud sigh if ever I told him to wait for his after-dinner treats.
A bit of a Dufus too
I'll also remember Byron's silliness. When we lived in a home that backed to a golf course, Byron would run full tilt at a deer or squirrel that was taunting him from beyond the wrought iron fence. Byron knew very well that fence was there, but he’d bash into the posts anyway, then pivot 180 degrees to look at us as if, “When did that fence get there?”
He loved people but especially adored females and took advantage of their curves, snuggling close at women's chests. I was grateful he was not a “humper.” We had him neutered right before he reached six months, and because of that, he didn’t have the annoying trait of trying to sire puppies via women’s legs, arms, or chests.
My son Kelly Livingston reminded me via photo that Byron also loved chasing geckos. He and his sister Meryl would make a muddy mess of our flower beds as they hunted geckos and drove them to escape up the walls of our former home. Luckily, Byron still had geckos to chase after we moved to Hawaii. In fact, I have security camera footage showing Byron wiggling through our wrought iron fence in growling pursuit of a gecko. This led to our having to add chicken wire to our new home's fencing.
He was a CS, but he was our CS
We often called Byron, a “CS,” our abbreviation for “chicken shit.” Around large dogs or in new situations, he was not the bravest of canines. I especially recall the time we gave him to a handler at Los Angeles Airport for the dogs’ cargo flight to Honolulu. If a dog can convey stark raving fear, Byron’s muzzle was that. My heart was torn, but all we could do was wave goodbye and hope he and his sister made it across the Pacific. And they did.
Byron was 12 when he died. His name came from my husband Bill's love of Lord Byron's poetry. In 2018, our Byron was diagnosed with anal sac adenocarcinoma. Surgery was not an option, so he received three weeks of radiation and dedicated care at Texas A&M University Small Animal Hospital in College Station, and then chemotherapy every three weeks via veterinary oncologist Timothy Stein at AVES in Austin. Before we moved to Hawaii, we made sure Byron’s treatments could continue through Dr. Head. He consulted with Dr. Stein on various methodologies.
Others I’d like to thank for Byron’s care: Dr. Erik Terrell of Lakeway first discovered Byron’s tumor and referred us to Dr. Stein. Trupanion Pet Insurance hung in there, paying 90% of most charges over the past three years. That was the only way we could provide the treatments Byron received. We certainly didn’t make a profit—pet insurance premiums are not cheap, and exam costs were never covered. But Trupanion paid the bulk of the rest, enabling us to do what we could, and that gave us some comfort at the end.
A noble beast
Bill frequently told Byron, “You are a noble beast.” And he was. Sometimes he would flop onto my lap to enjoy a belly rub, and then stand upright to relish a good back scratch. The expression on his muzzle said, “I’m indeed Lord of my Universe.” He was one happy dog who simply loved to love and be loved.
We will miss our little guy, but he no longer must endure the continual rounds of chemo, blood tests, accompanying nausea, and malaise. Although he quivered and quaked each time we pulled up to the vet's office, he fought a good fight. Three full years he survived a very aggressive cancer. And we are proud to have had Lord Byron as our noble beast.